If you’re shopping for a small car, there are a lot of good choices like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, and Mazda3 to name a few. This week, we drove the Kia Forte5 to see how it stacks up against the crowded compact car segment. It has a lot to offer with an attractive price, and the latest technology and features.
And the SX variant is powered by a turbocharged engine which makes it extra sporty.
The 2017 Kia Forte5 receives mildly updated front-end styling, inspired by the new Optima, with available adaptive xenon headlights, plus new taillights (with available LED lighting).
Features & Options
The top-of-the-line 2017 Kia Forte5 SX ($26,000) comes well-equipped with navigation, heated and cooled leather seats, push button start, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and power sunroof. It also comes standard with a turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips, unique front and rear styling, and an Orange Color package (new for 2017) with orange leather seat inserts and contrast stitching. The SX trim ratchets up the sport quotient with a sport-tuned suspension, larger front brakes, and LED taillights. An auto-dimming rearview mirror and UVO eServices are also standard.
Total MSRP including destination: $27,020.
We liked the power-adjustable driver’s seat and, along with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel, we were able to find the perfect driving position, which can be a challenge in some compacts. The upper trim SX is packed with technology and comfortable amenities like the heated/cooled leather seats. The attractive cabin is finished with quality materials throughout.
The Forte5 comes with plenty of high-tech features that are well-designed and easy to use. We particularly liked the 7-inch touchscreen interface featuring large, logically positioned virtual buttons that made it easy to understand and use. The leather-trimmed seats are comfortable up front and legroom for rear passengers in the Forte5 is very good. Our 6-foot plus passengers didn’t complain as we took them to lunch! The compact hatch offers very generous cargo capacity, boasting 23.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up and much more with the seatbacks folded down.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The SX version of the Forte5 has a hot turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed manual, and that’s a good thing for driving enthusiasts. Fuel economy on manual-equipped models is 23/29 city/highway and 25 combined mpg.
The turbocharged engine is the must-have for those who like to drive and want an extra level of performance on their daily commute. This engine transforms the compact hatch into just shy of being a true sports car. The fuel mileage will suffer though if you put your foot down and get the turbo whirling. There’s an available automatic 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT), but we would recommend the slick-shifting six-speed manual in the Forte5 SX. Its close-ratio gears are perfectly matched to the horsepower and torque, and make the most of the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine’s available power.
We took the hot compact hatch on a road trip to the Wild Animal Sanctuary east of Denver near Keensburg. We were pleasantly surprised at the comfortable ride on the highway. The 1.6-liter plant has the power of a larger engine because of the weight of the small compact, something we noticed on our trip as well.
The Forte5 SX delivers the kind of performance we might expect from a much more expensive sports car. We pushed it hard at altitude in the mountains west of Denver too and couldn’t believe how quick it was. It made easy work of the tight mountain curves and felt planted with little body lean. The Forte5 SX’s sport-tuned suspension is firm, so be aware of that if you regularly travel on dirt roads or uneven pavement.
The upper trim 2017 Kia Forte5 SX will give other compacts a run for their money, not only in performance, but in technology, cabin features, and comfort. If you want an extra sporty hatch for your daily commute, you will never get bored, especially with the 6-speed manual gearbox.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy